Reality Check

If you’re reading my blog, I’m pretty sure you’re not a rich and famous celebrity type.  So… maybe you shouldn’t try to look like one.  I keep seeing women who are my age (or older) trying to pull off some looks that are borderline hilarious.  Here’s some tough love…

Your Eyes Don’t Need to Smoke.  The “smoky eye” is being sold as universally sexy.  The truth is that it doesn’t work for everyone, and it looks downright ridiculous on some people.  (Same for that “cat eye/Cleopatra” look.)  It’s not good for everyday use and looks really dumb with a polo and denim capris.  Especially if you’re driving a minivan.

Not Every Trend Needs to be Embraced.  Just because you saw it on E! Entertainment Television or in a Sephora ad, doesn’t mean you have to go out and get “that” look.  It’s easy to lose focus on what looks good in the mirror when you spend too much time looking at other people.

If You Can’t Find It, You Don’t Need It.  Haven’t been able to find your favorite lipstick shade? There’s a reason. It’s out of style. Find something new.

Try It Before You Buy It.  Sephora stores have “express services” they do for free where you can choose from some of the “looks” without any committment.  Stop at a beauty counter in a department store to check out different products.  You have to be open-minded and forgiving with the beauty specialists, sometimes.  They have a “formula” they’re using for some of these techniques and they may not be one-size-fits=all.  I went and got the “everyday eye” look one time and it look like someone had spray painted my eyelids.  They were nice eye shadow colors – but it was a LOT of eye shadow.  And I had an allergic reaction to the mascara.  But, hey, at least it was free!

You Don’t Live at the Mall.  The lighting in your house, yard, and everywhere else is different.  Give yourself a reality check by going out to your car and seeing what you look like in the light of day before you buy all those products.  (Besides – using the “I want to see it in natural lighting” excuse allows you to dodge buying it if you can’t afford it or don’t like it.)

Step Away from the Crazy Colors.  So, maybe your favorite color is fuchsia – that doesn’t mean you should put it on your eyelids, cheeks, or lips.  You’re not a model for Sephora’s catalog.  Stick with the earth tones, blues, purples – anything that doesn’t look like a color you’d see in a highlighter.  If you want to wear a vibrant color, save it for your nails.

Save It for Evening Wear.  If you REALLY want to do some over-the-top glamorous look, save it for special occasions.  (Picking up your kids from soccer practice doesn’t qualify!)  Besides, if you’re always going for the uber-glamour, when you’re dressed up you’re just going to look like your everyday self in a nice dress.  It’s the contrast between your everyday look and your “evening” look that will make it more dramatic.  Nobody has ever made a grand entrance at an event by looking the way they look on a Monday morning.  Look your best every day, and look “va-va-voom” when/where people are more likely to appreciate it.

In Summary:  You’re fabulous.  You’re amazing.  Your choice of makeup has nothing to do with that.  You don’t have to prove your relevance by wearing every “must-have”, flavor-of-the-week color/product.


Soften Up

I know not everyone lives somewhere that having a water softener is an option, BUT if you have any way of installing a water softener, I’m certain it will improve your skin and hair – especially if you live somewhere with very hard water.  (like South Central Texas!)  This is probably the most expensive thing I’ll ever suggest you purchase, but it’s one of those things that will help in more than one area of your life…

Background:   I had a water softener installed in my home about 2 years ago. To be more accurate – I replaced the one that had been used as a trash can by previous owners. As a result, my hair is looking its best ever.  My skin is less breakout-prone, too.

But:    If you are even sort of prone to high blood pressure, the amount of salt added to your diet by a water softener could be significant (depending on how much water you drink.)  Also, if you water your grass, it won’t like having added salt in its diet. The alternative is to use a potassium chloride additive, rather than the salt.  It is significantly more expensive, but probably worth it.

Downside:  I’ve noticed our coffee maker and espresso machine don’t work as well.  The coffee maker is just slower, but the espresso machine just doesn’t work very well at all. All I can figure is that the particles in the water make it “chunky” at the molecular level and it can’t pass through the machines as well.  My solution:  Buy “drinking water”  (purified water, not fancy spring water) and keep a gallon around to make my espresso.

Multiple Benefits:  The other “upside” to having a water softener is that your pipes will last longer.  Supposedly, your laundry comes out brighter, too, but I haven’t noticed a difference there.  (And I don’t care, as long as my hair looks good!)

In Summary:  If you can afford a water softener, I highly recommend it.

Thumbs-Down: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

Somehow, I got on the DHC mailing list and I get their catalogs, which come with several samples each time.  I’ve tossed all the samples into my “sample drawer” and pull them out every now and then to try.  Since my cleanser comes in a huge bottle and was going out of town for only a day, I decided to pack the “Deep Cleansing Oil” sample to use for my trip.  Next time, I’ll just find a travel-sized cleanser to take…

Pros:  Removes heavy makeup.  Good for very dry skin. Paraben-free.

Cons: This product smells like olive oil that’s expired.  (It actually contains olive oil and vitamin E, so I guess that shouldn’t surprise me.)  Very oily.

In Summary:  Even if I loved the way this product smelled, I’m not sure that it isn’t anything more than a mixture of vitamin E oil and olive oil (both of which are inexpensive and easy to find) so I don’t see the point. Unless you work in theatre and need something to remove stage makeup (maybe you work at Sea World and have waterproof stage makeup…), I don’t know why you would use this.  There are so many skin oil products on the market that are far superior to this one.  Spend a little extra and get some argan oil, which can be used on your hair, body, and nails as well.

Rating:  1.5 out of 5 stars  

Price:  $26 for a 6.7 oz bottle

Available at:

More Great Budget Beauty Products

I already did a post about Best Beauty Buys Under $10.  I’d like to suggest some other products that are great buys, even though they’re not all under $10…

Maybelline The Colossal Volum’Express Waterproof Mascara.  Approx. $7.  Available at mass merchandisers and drug stores.

Wet N Wild nail polish.  Approx $5.  Available at mass merchandisers and drug stores.

Watts Beauty Argan Oil.  Price varies depending on size and bottle type.

Starting at approx $9 for 1 oz.  Available at and

Jack Black Lip Balm in Natural Mint.  Approx $7.50.  Available at Ulta and Sephora.

Burt’s Bees Pomegranate Lip Balm.  Approx $3.  Available almost everywhere.

Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizer (available in SPF 15 or 30).  Approx $13.  Available at mass merchandisers and drug stores.

In Summary:  Like I said, not all of these are under $10.  However, in some cases, you’re getting “more for your money”, making the product more budget-friendly than some of the alternatives.

10 Can’t-Live-Without Products

I’ve seen a lot of posts on beauty-related blogs about “10 Things I’d Buy Again” and similar themes.  I’m one of those people who plans for every possible scenario, no matter how unlikely they may be. (Ask me about my Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan!) So, if I were forced into exile on a deserted island, these are the ten things I’d take.  And yes, I’d still want to look good – those spy satellites and reconnaissance drones have very high-resolution cameras!

1.  Origins Zero Oil Deep Pore Cleanser.  Great for oily skin.

2.  Clinique Stay Matte Foundation.  Best foundation I’ve ever tried.

3.  Tigi Bed Head Headrush Hairspray.  Adds shine, improving the appearance of even less-than-healthy hair.

4.  L’Oreal Ever Sleek Finishing Creme.  Helps control frizz, smooths hair.

5.  Cover Girl Brow & Eye Makers Pencils.  Inexpensive way to get your brows the way you want them.

6.  Too Faced Naked Eye Pallette.  Nice, soft colors – plus a matte black that makes a great eyeliner.

7.  Maybelline The Colossoal Volum’ Express Waterproof Mascara.  Just a great, budget-friendly mascara that’s really waterproof.

8.  Revlon Top Speed Nail Polish.  I hate to wait. Even when I have nothing better to do with my time.

9.  Jack Black Lip Balm with Natural Mint.  Best lip balm.  Ever.

10.  Sonia Kashuk Essential Eye Kit.   All the brushes and applicators you’d ever need in a great portable wallet.


So there you go.  I hope I never end up in the “forced into exile” scenario (or the zombie apocalypse one!), but if I am and I only have a minute to pack, these are the things I’m going to grab.  They’ll be in my bag right next to the “Worst Case Scenario” survival book and my Gerber Multi-Tool.

Nominated for Beautiful Blogger Award…

Alright, I don’t know how this works.  The always-motivating Too Tall Fritz nominated me for this award a while back.  (See post here.)  Now, I’m humbled to have been nominated again, this time by True Beauty U.   (Thanks, ladies!)  So, I’m just going to go through the same procedure, except for the nominations and “facts about me” part.  I’m pretty sure I can come up with 7 new factoids about myself…

7 Random Facts About Me (this feels a little ego-maniacal, but OK…)

1.  I spent 10 years in the U.S. Air Force.  (I joined at age 17, a month after graduating high school.)

2.  I love “guy” movies – horror, cheesy action stuff, etc.

3.  I lived in South Korea for two years and Italy for three and a half years.

4.  I’m a repressed adrenaline junkie.  I love anything fast but live in an area that lacks good roller coasters, so I don’t get my “fix” very often.

5.  I swear.  Kind of a lot. (But not on my blog or in front of other people’s kids!)

6.  I’m currently growing my hair out so I can donate it to a good cause.

7.  I’ve never had a manicure or pedicure.

7 Blogs Worthy of Nomination:

Poor Girl Fashionista

Luna’s Beauty Blog

Forty, Flirty & Fabulous

Sparkle Girl’s Life

Beauty & the Best of the Rest

Abi’s Beauty Blog

The Makeup Honey

Go check ’em out!!!

Know When to Say “No” to a Free Sample

I love getting stuff for free (doesn’t everyone?!?!) and take every opportunity I can to try new things.  However, I’ve learned about the evils of free samples – the hard way…


When to Say Yes

– If the product is to “augment” an already-purchased supply of a product.  If you’ve fallen in love with something, there’s nothing wrong with getting some more of it for free, if you can.

– If your skin tone has changed.  Getting a little “color” can make your foundation obsolete.  Go get a free sample of a darker shade at a department store beauty counter or Sephora store.  They’ll usually give you a 10-day supply, which can tide you over for a while – especially if you get a 10-day supply from multiple sources.

– If you need a small amount of the product for traveling.  Sample sizes and “bonus-sized samples” (bigger than normal) can be perfect for travel or for an “emergency make up kit” to keep at work, the gym, wherever.

– If you have sensitive skin.  Getting a free sample is a great way to make sure you don’t have a reaction to any of the product’s ingredients.

– If you’ve been considering buying the product.  Obviously, the “try before you buy” concept is the best reason to get a free sample.  You might be genuinely interested in a product that isn’t perfect for you after all.  A free sample is a great way to find out without the financial committment.


When to Say No

– If you can’t afford the product and you think you might fall in love with it.  We know why free samples exist.  It’s to get us “hooked” on products so we’ll go buy them.  Check the price before you use the sample and ask yourself “Am I willing/able to pay for this product if I love it?”  If the answer is no, you might not want to try it.

– If the sample is a “free gift with purchase”.  Sometimes, you’re already buying stuff and there’s an offer that allows you to get something for free. Tempting, right?  But, if you’re having to spend more than you normally would to get the free item, you need to figure out what you’re really paying for it.  If you have to spend $50 on Brand X’s stuff, and you only needed a $30 item, you’re paying $20 for that sample!  Yes, you’re getting another product, but you might be inclined to buy something you don’t need (or exceed your “beauty budget”) and may not even like.  Sometimes the sample might not even be something you want, but the idea of getting something for “free” makes you feel compelled to spend more to get it.

– If the sample size doesn’t prove how the product works.  Many products (especially anti-wrinkle/anti-aging ones) take up to 8 weeks of daily use to show results.  (Some are as little as 2 weeks, but still…)  If you’re not getting a sample that will last 8 weeks, you’re never going to know if it really works.  It can be a good way to make sure you like the fragrance and don’t have an allergic reaction.  Beyond that, the sample is kind of useless.

– If the product doesn’t “match” your shopping conscience.   If you normally only buy cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free, etc. and the product you’re “sampling” doesn’t meet your normal criteria, you probably shouldn’t bother with it.  You might find that you like the product enough to compromise your principles.  (Actually, you’re compromising your principles to use the product in the first place…)  We all have enough reasons to feel guilty – we don’t need to add guilt to our beauty regimen.


In Summary

Getting free stuff is great – except when it causes a moral dilemma, is pointless, or causes you to spend more money.  🙂


Review: John Frieda Smooth Start Conditioner (“Repairing”)

Despite all my attempts to care for my hair, I still have to deal with a moderate amount of frizziness.  (I blame South Texas humidity.)  So, I’m a sucker for anything that promises to help with this particular issue.  Here’s my review of this particular one…

 Pros:  Paraben-free.  Inexpensive.  “Clings” to hair (you can still feel it on your hair even after rinsing).  Slight improvement in frizziness.

Cons:   Very strongly fragranced. I don’t think it did much “repairing”.

In Summary:  Overall, this is a good conditioner. I think the “Repairing” in the formula name is a bit much to say you’re doing for someone’s hair. It is – after all – just a rinse-out conditioner. Real repair usually comes from leave-in treatments.  It would probably work well on hair that’s only moderately frizzy.  If you can stand the smell and get it with a coupon or something, it’s worth a try.  It’s one of a handful of conditioners I’d use regularly, but I’d still need other products (serum, argan oil, etc) to control the frizz.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars 


Price:  Approximately $6 for 10 fl. oz.

Available at:  drugstores, mass merchandisers,, Ulta

Review: Herbal Essences “Set Me Up” Hairspray (#4 – Max Hold)

I’ve decided to switch from using “pump spray” hair spray to aerosol.  The pumps on the spray bottles inevitably stop working, resulting in me having to put the product into whichever spray bottle I can find (usually my tiny travel-sized ones).  Before the pump completely breaks, it usually has a transition point where it spits hairspray into my hair in huge drops.  Annoying.  So, I picked this one up when it was on sale recently…

Pros:  Smells nice.  Paraben-free.  Holds decently well without “crunchy” feeling.  Inexpensive.

Cons:  Contains sulfates. Doesn’t hold as well as some others.

In Summary:  This is a pretty good hairspray.  Although it’s not as powerful as I would expect from a “max hold” product, it’s good enough for my purposes, since I’m not doing any crazy stuff with my hair.  Although I rarely use hairspray, I’ll probably keep using this one.  (With my luck, it will get discontinued before the next time I buy hairspray!)

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars 

Price:  approx. $4

Available at:  mass merchandisers, drug stores, Ulta (not online),

Review: Dr. Brandt Pores No More Cleanser

I got this product a while back with a gift card I won.  The one I have is in a super-fancy-looking container, but the new one comes in a (probably much more convenient) tube.  I tried it when I first got it and didn’t love it, but wanted to give it another chance – partially so I could do a review…

Pros:  Good for very oily skin.  Nice fragrance. Cleanses well.  Contains salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and willow bark (for acne treatment). Contains no synthetic fragrances or dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, GMOs, or triclosan.

Cons:  A little strongly fragranced.  Contains parabens and sulfates.  Not good for sensitive skin.  Dries skin out.  Expensive.  (although I think the price has gone down since I got mine…)

In Summary:  If you have a big problem with clogged pores AND oily skin, it might be good for you.  I still don’t love it.  I was thinking I should use it up, since it’s so expensive.  (Before I realized it contained parabens, I gave it to my kids and it was collecting dust in their bathroom, so apparently they didn’t like it either!)  Since I didn’t pay for it AND it contains parabens, I guess I’ll just toss it out.

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 stars 

Price:  $35 for 3.5 fl. oz.

Available atSephora,, Ulta